Confessions of a Former Know-it-all
Jul 12, 2000
I have a confession to make. I was one of those people who regularly made judgments about other people's parenting methods, their children and their children's behavior before I ever became a parent myself!
Well, ten years and three children later I can tell you I was humbled and knocked off my haughty "know-it-all" perch long ago!
No matter how many books we've read, no matter how often we've sought advice from other parents, parenting is definitely a "learn as you go" type of job. And when it comes to disciplining our children, I'd say that's where the rubber meets the road -- how we instruct and train our them in the area of their behavior -- in public, in private, toward authority, toward peers, etc. -- is the toughest and one of the most important jobs we have.
Parents (especially new parents!) get a whole bunch of unsolicited advice from well-meaning folks. I'm going to join the ranks of the "well-meaning" and offer some suggestions that I hope someone might find helpful.
First of all, I believe it is imperative that couples decide and establish well in advance of becoming parents what their "philosophy" (for lack of a better word!) of parenting will be. Mutually agreed upon expectations and goals can be discussed, not cemented in stone, of course, but at least discussed.
Random examples of some of what I think should be discussed:
The foundation, the cornerstone of a family might very well be your faith/religion -- how will you implement your faith as parents? Will the basic principles of your faith be your guiding principles for parenting and family life?
Will spanking ever be appropriate as a means of discipline, and if so, under what circumstances?
Will one parent remain at home to be the full-time caregiver to the children? If not, what type of childcare will be used, and how will the family budget handle this expense (if any)?
Now I, like parents everywhere, have definite and strong opinions on the topics mentioned above, but what I think doesn't really matter. In each and every household, it's the parents who must figure out what works for them. And when they figure it out -- they need to stick with The Plan.
Yes, there will be times -- many times, possibly! -- that when it comes to discipline The Plan will change or take a different course. We're constantly learning new things and changing ourselves, so our philosophies will likely change as well. Plus, we'll learn what works and what doesn't. But these changes ought to come only when -- and not before -- both parents have discussed them.
After all, what could be more confusing to a child than inconsistent discipline? Just think how insecure a child must feel when he/she doesn't know what to expect from Mom or Dad because they react and respond differently every hour of the day, every day of the week?
The idea of "training" a child makes me think of a young athlete in training. The coaches (parents) work toward a common goal and give instructions to the athlete (child) to help him/her reach that goal. And the instructions are not given once, but time and time again. Repeatedly. Consistently. One coach isn't telling the athlete one thing while the other coach is saying something else!
A different analogy: when we tend our garden, we don't pull weeds and water one time and then forget about it. We cultivate the soil over and over again. We pull out weeds and fertilize our plants to help them have the greatest possible chance of growing to their full potential. For best results, all of this takes time, effort and a thought-out plan of action.
The love and consistent discipline we give our children is vitally important today, and will ultimately effect society as a whole in the years to come -- long after we're gone.
Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.